May on the Farm (2022)

Buttercups in Madam’s Close

Richard Fonge writes:

We are having some welcome rain. Welcome in the fact that the crops and grassland are in dire need of it, as can be seen with the beans on the Stuchbury path, and oats along the concrete road. The situation in the Ukraine has highlighted the need for us, a country with the soils and expertise to grow most crops and rear livestock, to be as self sufficient as possible. The balance between growing food and environmental schemes has never been more important.

The buttercups in Madam’s Close are an attractive sight. Many associate buttercups with contented milking cows grazing amongst them as they did a long time ago. The days of cows being called Buttercup, Daisy or Marigold have long gone. Sixty years back a good Friesian cow would give 4,500 litres in a lactation. A lactation being 305 days. Today due to better genetics and nutrition that yield has more than doubled to 9,000 litres, with most of our milk being produced in the western side of the country where rainfall is higher, and grass can grow better.

The cattle out in the fields near Sulgrave are steers, (If you follow All Creatures Great and Small they are stirks). These are castrated males. Remember cows lactate and then only after giving birth. All very confusing but terminology is important.

Our countryside looks at its best I think in May, with the May blossom out and the fresh greens of the hedgerows and trees. Take a walk on the many footpaths we have around our Parish and savour. The bird song up the gated road in the morning is worth a walk to hear on its own.

The eight sheep on the Castle mound are a rare breed. They are Lonks, a breed native to the Pennines, with a strong body and thick fleece, essential for the climate of the region. Their meat is of good quality and my research tells me it claimed first prize in best hotpot competition. There are many rare breeds of sheep, cattle and pigs and the best way to ensure their survival is to breed them for meat. The rare breeds survival trust stress this in their literature.

Richard Fonge



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